Dr Oliver Rawashdeh

Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences

School of Biomedical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
o.rawashdeh@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 52706

Overview

I received my Bachelor's in Biology (2001) from Yarmouk University in Jordan, followed by postgraduate degrees from the University of Houston in Houston-Texas (2002-2007). My studies are integrative in nature, joining the best of both the Neuroscience world and Circadian Biology (the study of biological clocks). In the laboratory of Prof. Arnold Eskin, I investigated how processes as complex as learning and memory are modulated by biological clocks i.e. the circadian (about 24 hours) system, using Aplysia californica as the experimental model. After completing my Master's in Science in 2005, my research focused on the mechanism by which biological clocks modulate learning and memory. This work was performed in the laboratories of Prof. Gregg Cahill and Prof. Greg Roman, experts in chronobiology and behavioral neuroscience, respectively. Using Zebrafish as a model system, I investigated the role of melatonin, a night-time restricted hormonal signal, in modulating long-term memory consolidation. My findings, published in Science in 2007, shows that the circadian system via the cyclic night-time confined synthesis/release of melatonin “the hormone of darkness” functions as a modulator, shaping daily variations in the efficiency by which memories are processed. After receiving my Ph.D. in 2007, I joined as a postdoctoral fellow the laboratory of the pharmacologist and melatonin researcher Prof. Margarita Dubocovich. My postdoctoral work engaged in elucidating the role of melatonin in circadian physiology and pharmacology during development and ageing in rodents (Mus musculus) and non-human primates (Macaca mulatta) at the Feinberg School of Medicine (Northwestern University-Chicago) and the State University of New York (SUNY). From 2010-2015, I held a teaching/research position in the Dr. Senckenbergische Anatomy and the Dept. of Neurology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt-Germany. During this time, I was involved in teaching gross human anatomy while continuing my endeavor in understanding the mechanistics involved in shaping memory processes (acquisition, consolidation and retrieval) by the circadian system.

Research Impacts

I have always been intrigueed by the importance of the biological time-keeping system in regulating physiological and behavioural processes as complex and important as learning and memory. A memory is a defining factor of who we are, similar to a passport or fingerprint "we are our memories". The efficiency by which we aqcuire new information (learning) and form memories is dependent on temporal factors generated by our inner time-keeping system, the circadian system, which imposes regulatory actions on anatomical structures inlcuding those pivotal for memory processing. This phenomenon has deep fundamental evolutionary roots, since the circadian modulation of learning and memory is conserved across species, as we and others have demonstrated. My research focuses on identifying the biological clocks and pacemakers that regulate hippocampus-dependent learning and memory processes and deciphering the means of communication between the circadian clock and the limbic system (anatomical structures specialized in the generation, processing and storrage of informations and emotions). hence, the memories that shape our behavior are based on theinformation we efficiently aquire, which is dependent on the time-of-day when information processing takes place.

Humans are under the mercy of increasingly accelerating technological advancements and slaves to our own and growing greed. Our bodies are not designed to function to meet such demands, simply because evolution is lagging behind! Since we are less likely to change and cure the directionality of modern-life style and its demands, a fundamental understanding to how the circadian system interacts to modulate physiology, particularly memory processing, will aid in providing therapeutics aimed to enhance our adaptability (metabolic, cognitive...etc) to continuous and rapid temporal shifts.

Qualifications

  • Master of Science, The University of Houston
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Houston

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Project Aim:

    The project aims to identify the components and mechanistics involved in resetting the body’s master circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. A detailed understanding of how time-cues entrain the biological clock will be key to develop pharmacological approaches that are aimed to enhance our adaptability to temporal environmental changes i.e. adjusting the speed by which our clocks tick.

    Background:

    Jetlag and Social-lag are terms used to describe symptoms associated with the disruption of the body’s “internal clock”. This disruption, or desynchronosis, can occur (1) when flying across multiple time zones, (2) during shiftwork, (3) due to a misalgnment between the body’s internal clock and social time and (4) in diseases and during ageing. The symptoms include loss of appetite, insomnia, mild depression, altered mood, headaches, nausea and reduced physical and mental performance. Jetlag symptoms gradually wear off as the body adapts to the new time zone and social cycles. Thus, accelerating the adaptation process or reinstating circadian rhythms in disease and during ageing means reducing symptomatology and improving the quality of life.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Project Aim:

    The project aims to identify the components and mechanistics involved in resetting the body’s master circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. A detailed understanding of how time-cues entrain the biological clock will be key to develop pharmacological approaches that are aimed to enhance our adaptability to temporal environmental changes i.e. adjusting the speed by which our clocks tick.

    Background:

    Jetlag and Social-lag are terms used to describe symptoms associated with the disruption of the body’s “internal clock”. This disruption, or desynchronosis, can occur (1) when flying across multiple time zones, (2) during shiftwork, (3) due to a misalgnment between the body’s internal clock and social time and (4) in diseases and during ageing. The symptoms include loss of appetite, insomnia, mild depression, altered mood, headaches, nausea and reduced physical and mental performance. Jetlag symptoms gradually wear off as the body adapts to the new time zone and social cycles. Thus, accelerating the adaptation process or reinstating circadian rhythms in disease and during ageing means reducing symptomatology and improving the quality of life.